October 8, 2017

Deuteronomy 8:7-18
2 Corinthians 9:6-15
Luke 17:11-19

“Overflowing Thanks”

This morning’s scripture readings invite us to reflect and to respond. As we celebrate Thanksgiving weekend together with our Canadian neighbours, friends, and families, we are invited to remember that this holiday is about more than a big meal and pumpkin-themed decorations.

We don’t call it “Turkey Day” because it’s not just about the menu, but it can be for us, as Christians, a special time of reflecting on the goodness of God and responding to that goodness with our lives of service and generosity.

The passage from Deuteronomy that we just heard is Moses addressing the Hebrew People. They are at the point where they have just finished their long 40-year journey through the wilderness, and they are about to cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land.

You will remember that they have been through a terrible time. After escaping slavery and a harsh existence in Egypt, they have wandered through the wilderness for years – living in tents, coping with scarcity and danger, complaining and arguing with each other at times, and sometimes nearly giving up hope.

But soon all that will be over. Moses tells them that God is bringing them into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and honey, a land where they may eat bread without scarcity, where they will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills they may mine copper. He tells them that they will eat their fill and bless the Lord God for the good land that God has given them.

“You will bless the Lord… You will give thanks,” Moses instructs his People as they enter into a time of abundance and plenty. And he urges them not to forget God.

The problem is that it is so easy to forget God when we have all that we need… when we have all that we think we need.

When we have eaten our fill, and have built fine houses and live in them, when our families are growing, our careers are taking off, our businesses are thriving, and we have money to spend and to invest… It’s easy to forget God, and to begin to think that it is our own power and might, our own intelligence and hard work, that have gotten us this wealth.

They say that there are more people of faith in fox holes and at funerals, because in the midst of trouble, fear, and despair we are much more inclined to turn to God for help. But when everything is good, we may fool ourselves into thinking that we earned it.

Moses warns his people not to make that mistake. He encourages them not to forget the wilderness time, and especially to remember the way that God was with them and provided for them in their need.

We are a diverse community… with people of all ages and stages of life. Some of us are likely feeling rich and blessed today, and others are struggling and giving thanks for God’s provision in the midst of grief, loss, or need. Some of us are probably focussing on the family gatherings we are planning for tonight or tomorrow, while others are still preoccupied with thoughts of the acts of senseless violence that have happened in our world this week.

Whatever our situation, we are called today to remember God, to look for and identify the blessings of God, and to give thanks to God.

As children we are taught to “say thanks” and that is a good place to start. God wants to hear us expressing our thanks in prayer and praise, acknowledging that God is the source of every blessing that we experience.

But the Apostle Paul, in one of his letters to the Corinthians, identifies another way that we are called to express our thanks to God, and that is through our generous giving.

Paul is writing to the Church at Corinth to ask for their support. The Church at Jerusalem is struggling as it tries to carry out the Christian ministry and provide for the needs of the poor, the widowed, and those in need in the community.

The Corinthians have greater means, they have promised to help, and Paul is asking them to fulfill their promise – to give generously.

He tells them, “You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God.”

Here at First Church, the Session and its Stewardship Committee have designated the next few weeks for a focus on stewardship in our congregation, thinking about how we use the gifts of time, talent, and money that we have so graciously received from God.

And Thanksgiving Sunday seems like a good time to begin such a focus, because that’s where our giving begins, isn’t it? It begins with pausing to recognize and give thanks to God for the blessings in our lives. And when we begin to see and appreciate the abundance we possess, our thanks wells up within us and overflows in generous sharing with others.

On this Thanksgiving Sunday, I hope that you will consider how you are being called to respond to God, not only with words of thanks, but with the giving of your gifts, your time, and yourself for God’s good purposes.

If you are thankful today for abundant food, consider sharing some of that abundance with someone who may be hungry this weekend.

If you are thankful today for education, use what you have learned to do good in the world, or share your knowledge and skills generously with someone else who wants to learn.

If you are thankful today for your friends or family, consider putting some extra thought into the way you care for and appreciate them, and consider reaching out to someone else who needs a friend or a surrogate family member.

If you are thankful today for a child or grandchild, consider how you show your thanks by loving that child and teaching her about God’s love in Jesus.

If you are thankful today for your home, consider how you can use your home as a place of hospitality for others, welcoming and caring for them as God has cared for you.

If you are thankful today for your car, consider the people in your life who cannot drive or do not have a car. Can you offer someone a ride?

If you are thankful today for good health, consider how you can use your body to help or serve others who are less well, or less mobile than you are.

If you are thankful today for your church, consider how you might make a special contribution to its ministry by giving your time, talent, or tithe.

No matter what kind of gift each one of us is called to give, Paul’s words to the Corinthians apply: “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.” Amen.